The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) says mechanisms must be put in place to ensure the protection of women and children against gender-based violence.

The commission says as the country continues with the nationwide lockdown, human rights must still be protected and respected.

With the country on Level 4 since midnight, there are concerns that the restriction on movement makes it impossible for victims of abuse to move away from their abusers.

There are also concerns that the police cannot act if the abuse is not reported and that some corrupt officers are bribed by the abusers to not act on allegations of abuse.

SAHRC National Chairperson, Bongani Majola, says with the lockdown not expected to end anytime soon, government needs to act quickly.

“It is likely difficult for the police to control it or to deal with it and prevent it in homes because they are not here in homes. There have to be other interventions that again create the understanding amongst men and other domestic abusers that this is not right. In some cases we heard that women go and report and nothing gets done so the abusers then know okay I can do this and can get away with it because the police will either not do anything or I can bribe somebody to get the docket lost or do nothing about it. It’s a big challenge for us,” says Majola.

The South African government has set out a plan of action to combat the scourge of gender-based violence in the country.

President Cyril Ramaphosa presented the plan to parliament in September 2019 and said the five-point plan would take six months to put the plan into place.

Measures to combat the scourge

  • Government to prioritise gender-based violence in its national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Government to implement the Emergency Response Plan to end gender-based violence.
  • Support services to vulnerable women and children remain operational throughout the lockdown, including psycho-social services like counselling for women and children, sheltering and places of safety, and medico-legal services in cases of sexual violence.
  • The Gender-Based Violence National Command Centre remains operational.
  • The Interim Steering Committee on GBV and femicide, in consultation with civil society organisations, is developing guidelines and protocols for GBV management amid COVID-19.

In this video, the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Council set by President Cyril Ramaphosa is discussed